Some people want to get into the country’s hottest restaurants so badly, they’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars for a reservation that would otherwise be free.
That’s the ethos behind the website Appointment Trader, which offers users the chance to snag tables at spots like New York’s Carbone and the Polo Bar, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. People with existing reservations to those establishments can simply list them on the site and interested diners can pay for the booking. So far, Appointment Trader has sold $2.4 million worth of reservations.
“Everyone wants to get in somewhere they can’t and brag about it,” Nick DiMaggio, who’s used the company to acquire more than 220 reservations, told the Times. “The rich will pay anything for access.”
Appointment Trader was founded by Jonas Frey in 2021, first as a way for people to get DMV appointments. But the site quickly started listing restaurant reservations, along with spots at bars, clubs, and hotels. Available in hundreds of cities, half of its traffic comes from N.Y.C. alone.
That makes sense, given how many people have lamented the city’s reservation culture as of late. In person and on the internet, everyone is talking about how hard it is to get a seat at popular restaurants such as Rao’s, Pebble Bar, Bad Roman, and more. So if you have the means, why not just throw some money at the problem?
AJ Bernstein, another user of the site, told The New York Times that he would happily spend hundreds on a reservation, since it doesn’t even come close to what he would spend on dinner itself. The most he’s paid is $200 for a table at Miami’s Sexy Fish, where he then chowed down on a $3,000 dinner with three guests.
“These are restaurants that have exclusivity, and that makes it more desirable,” Bernstein said. “I’m paying more of a premium because I want to be at this specific restaurant.”
While some appreciate the access that Appointment Trader allows, others have some quibbles with the site. Online, diners have complained that the platform doesn’t work so well, and Frey said that the process of buying a reservation could be easier. Other reservation companies, like Resy and Tock, also have to contend with the potential selling of tables booked through their platforms. For its part, Resy says that users can’t sell or trade their reservations, and Tock CEO Matthew Tucker told the Times that it doesn’t see Appointment Trader as its competition.
“Tock is much more democratic,” Tucker said. “It’s not for the privileged who can go on Appointment Trader and pay a lot more.”
If Tock is showing a restaurant as completely booked, though, you know where you might be able to turn.